THE ARTISTIC LIFE
an animistic principle which may be most fruitful of results when properly understood and applied. As stated, Chinese calligraphy has explored every possible style of rhythm and form, and it has done so by deriving its artistic inspiration from nature, especially from plants and animals—the branches of the plum flower, a dried vine with a few hanging leaves, the spring-Ing body of the leopard, the massive paws of the tigers the swift legs of the deer, the sinewy strength of the horse, the bushlness of the bears the slimness of the stork, or the raggedness of the pine branch. There Is thus not one type of rhythm in nature which has not been copied in Chinese writing and formed directly or Indirectly the Inspiration for a particular "style/* If a Chinese scholar sees a certain beauty In a dry vine with Its careless grace and elastic strength, the tip of the end curling upward and a few leaves still hanging on it haphazardly and yet most appropriately, he tries to incorporate that into his writing. If another scholar sees a pine tree that twists its trunk and bends Its branches downward instead of upward, which shows a wonderful tenacity and force* he also tries to incorporate that Into his style of writing. We have therefore the "dry-vine5* style and the c*pine-branchn style of writing. A famous monk and calligraphist had practised writing for years without result, and one day walking on a mountain path he chanced upon two lighting snakes, each straining Its neck, which showed strength In apparent gentleness. From this Inspiration he developed a most individualistic type of writing, called the "fighting-snakes" style, suggesting the tension and wriggling movement of the snakes' necks. Thus Wang Hsichih (321-379), China's "prince of calligraphlsts/5 spoke about the art of calligraphy in terms of imagery from nature:
Every horizontal stroke Is like a mass of clouds in battle formation, every hook like a bent bow of the greatest strength, every dot like a falling rock from a high peak, every turning of the stroke like a brass hook, every drawn-out line like a dry vine of great old age, and every swift and free stroke like a runner on his start.
One can understand Chinese calligraphy only when one's